President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership and handling of South Africa's electricity crisis has been less than stellar, and this started long before he became the president of the country, according to political analyst Prof Andre Duvenhage. South Africans have for the last few weeks been grappling with relentless power cuts, which peaked this past weekend, when stage 6 load shedding was implemented by power utility Eskom. ALSO READ: Stage 6 load shedding: Here’s how we got here According to Duvenhage, this dire state of affairs calls for a strong leader who can take decisive decisions in a difficult environment. He does…
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership and handling of South Africa’s electricity crisis has been less than stellar, and this started long before he became the president of the country, according to political analyst Prof Andre Duvenhage.
South Africans have for the last few weeks been grappling with relentless power cuts, which peaked this past weekend, when stage 6 load shedding was implemented by power utility Eskom.
ALSO READ: Stage 6 load shedding: Here’s how we got here
According to Duvenhage, this dire state of affairs calls for a strong leader who can take decisive decisions in a difficult environment. He does not believe that Ramaphosa is that leader though.
“However, I am afraid – since 2017 when Ramaphosa became President of the country, and also taking into consideration the fact that he was the deputy President in the previous at least five years, I cannot really see him bringing about fundamental changes.
“I am seeing him continuing the way he did in the first term, maybe he will be a bit more populistic to keep his support base through public relations exercises, telling people how good they are but I think there is a complete lack of political will and probably ability to lead South Africa in these difficult times,” Duvenhage said.
ANC leadership collectively to blame
Duvenhage says the governing African National Congress’ (ANC) lack of leadership dating back to the times of Thabo Mbeki, and to an extent even Nelson Mandela’s Presidency, has landed South Africa in the electricity crisis it finds itself today.
He believes there should have been strategic decisions taken about new Eskom plants and developments many years ago, but greed trumped responsibility to the country.
“The ANC stopped that and my understanding from conversations I had with several people at that time was that the ANC was not going to benefit much, and so there was a lot of greed involved.
Duvenhage said another problem at Eskom is that a lot of the skills are linked to groups and communities which are excluded from either the ANC or policy frameworks, transformation and black economic empowerment.
“If we look at the current situation at Eskom, it is clear that the personnel composition is about twice as large as it should be, in other words close to 50% of people should be fired in order to get the system going,” he said.
“At the end of the day, there is only straightforward corruption in terms of contracts and so we need to fire 50% of the staff and get in new capacity and skills.
“I honestly believe that Andre De Ruyter and Jan Oberholzer are trying their utmost, but the problem is not lying with them but with the lack of political decision-making in terms of changing the paradigm, we should go for a more private orientated system where there’s less stress on private people to contribute to electricity.”
How will we build super cities if we can’t even keep the lights on?
Duvenhage said the power utility is falling apart in a dramatic and spectacular way, stressing that what the country is witnessing, is the decay of a modern industrial economy.
“Isn’t it a bit ironic that we had the president talking about the 4th and 5th industrial revolution and also talks about the Chinese super cities, but we cannot even provide electricity? That’s a basic condition if you want industrialisation.
“I am seeing a difficult time lying ahead. I am seeing red flags all over the place and I think Ramaphosa won’t be able to deal with this matter in a proper way, also taking into consideration Eskom wanting tariff increase of over 30%… We are looking at less and less people paying,” Duvenhage added.
ALSO READ: Soon we’ll have to sell our kidneys to afford Eskom’s price hikes
Eskom’s problems are man-made
When asked if Ramaphosa should also take the blame for the crisis, considering that he was heading Eskom’s war room at some point, political analyst Levy Ndou replied:
“The fact that there was once a war room at Eskom, is a clear indication that Eskom has been in a crisis for a very long time and the challenge at Eskom is poor management, which also includes poor financial management because they don’t appear to know exactly where they should invest their money.”
He said the challenges at Eskom are not necessarily technical, stressing that they are more ‘man-made’.
“It is also about poor maintenance of the infrastructure and generally not caring about delivering on their mandate,” said Ndou.
According to Ndou, people who should take full responsibility are those who have been given the resources, money and power to take decisions to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply.
Also Read: Firing De Ruyter now like booting the pilot while plane is crashing
“You can’t expect people who are outside of Eskom to bring solutions to Eskom because why do you have people employed in the first place to provide electricity and not providing it as we are seeing now.”
Change of leadership would be too little, too late
Ndou doubts whether changing Eskom’s leadership now would have a significant impact on the utility.
“Corruption and the level of irresponsibility is so much entrenched at Eskom that when there is no electricity, there are certain people who are celebrating that there is no electricity. So, the problem is so entrenched that when you think South Africans and those who work at Eskom are together, it might not be the case… the problem comes from within Eskom itself,” Ndou added.